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Gangs, Terrorism, and Radicalization

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2016
11 pages

This study identified and analyzed convergence and differences  between gang membership and terrorist groups, with attention to organizational structure, group process, the use of social media, and imprisonment in the process of radicalization.



After identifying points of convergence and differences between terrorist groups and gangs, this review of relevant literature found little evidence that American street gangs are becoming increasingly radicalized or that their members are being actively recruited by terrorist groups. Most gang members are characterized by the lack of a political or religious orientation. This is most pronounced among the typical age categories of street gang members (teenagers and some older members). Gang membership patterns last an average of just less than 2 years, with membership being more dependent on sharing a neighborhood residence rather than a common cause that persists over a long term. Prison is a place to look for signs of radicalization among gang members into terrorist commitments; however, while in prison, street-gang members tend to affiliate with prison gangs largely along racial and ethnic lines influenced by criminal codes, not religious or political ideologies that advocate ideologically based violence.


Date Published: August 1, 2016